Experience a light keeper’s day in 1870 – a 24/7 job of polishing glass, filling oil lamps, recording weather patterns, and watching the waves from one of the most rugged points in Newfoundland. For generations of mariners along this coast, the light at Cape Bonavista was their only connection to land while out on the dark sea. Built in 1843, the light at Cape Bonavista is one of the few in the world where you can still climb up the stone tower and see the same seal oil fueled catoptric light apparatus that was used in the 1800s.
The first lighthouse keeper was Jeremiah White who immigrated to Newfoundland from Ireland and was fifty-one when he was appointed to the post at Cape Bonavista in 1843. Jeremiah‘s three sons would later be in charge of the lighthouse for roughly a decade. Thomas White passed away in 1895 and was replaced by his son Fred, whose term as keeper would extend the White family’s length of service at Cape Bonavista to seventy-five years.
In 1913, a fog alarm was installed on Cape Island, located just off Cape Bonavista, and connected to it by a rickety wooden footbridge. At the age of just eighteen, Hubert Abbott, a native of Bonavista, was hired to tend the foghorn. A powerful storm in 1919 generated towering waves that swept over the forty-five-metre-tall island, destroyed his home, and damaged the fog alarm. Abbott and his family escaped and after the fog alarm was relocated to a position just south of the lighthouse. Abbott was placed in charge of both the light and fog alarm in 1923 and served for thirty-seven more years until retiring in 1960.
The Cape Bonavista Lighthouse is one of the most photographed places in Newfoundland and Labrador and is a prime location to view whales, icebergs and puffins. Be sure to try some period toys and games and try on period costumes in our Dress-Up Closet during your visit.
Open from the Victoria Day long weekend until just before Thanksgiving.
505 Cape Shore Road
Bonavista, NL A0C 1B0
Plan Your Visit
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“Bonavista Lighthouse is one of the first Canadian historic sites I visited when I came to Canada three years ago. I took this photo when I went to Bonavista in 2019, with my best friend Robert Tilly, a 73-old true Newfoundlander. Robert’s ancestors began to settle in the Bonavista area around 200 years ago.”
– Ting ting Chen, St. John’s, NL
“In travelling to Newfoundland and Labrador and visiting the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse in 2013, I experienced the trip of a lifetime. From Victoria, BC, I travelled to the other far reach of Canada: from Bonavista to Vancouver Island’ (in reverse)….as expressed in the song “This Land Is Your Land”. The history of the lightkeepers, safeguarding the coast while living in remote locations and enduring challenging weather conditions, is truly inspiring. Visiting other iconic and scenic locations, including the city of St. John’s, Cape Spear and Signal Hill, rounded out the trip.”
– Brian Brannagan, Victoria, BC
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The Town of Bonavista
Located near Cape Bonavista at the end of a long peninsula on Newfoundland’s northeast coast, the Town of Bonavista (population 3,589) is one of North America’s oldest communities. It is said to be named after the first words Venetian explorer John Cabot exclaimed as he came across the cape in 1497: “O Buon Vista!”
The town of Bonavista won the Prince of Wales Prize in 2014. Find out more here.